The International Safety Equipment Association and the Risk and Insurance Management Society have petitioned the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to prohibit the use of silica in abrasive blasting. The petition asks for an expedited rulemaking to amend regulations and make the use of silica sand in abrasive blasting a prohibited practice.
Sandblasting continues to be one of the areas of greatest exposure to respirable crystalline silica, and several organizations and countries have enacted prohibitions, ISEA President Daniel K. Shipp wrote April 28 in a letter to Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor Jordan Barab.
Britain, Germany, Sweden and Belgium as well as the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard and 23 state departments of transportation have banned the use of silica in abrasive blasting. Countries that have banned the practice “have demonstrated that the abrasive blasting process can be carried on effectively within the use of sand,” Shipp wrote.
WorkSafe Victoria, which enforces OSH regulations in the Australian state of Victoria, has banned the use of materials containing more than 1 percent crystalline silica in abrasive blasting since Jan. 1, 2002.
A safer, more economical abrasive blasting alternative is steel shot, which can be reused up to 1,800 times, Shipp wrote. He also cited the cost of litigation in which more than 30,000 workers since 2002 have claimed exposure to silica sand made them sick.
Mark Prysock, general counsel of RIMS, signed a statement submitted with the letter that states RIMS supports the petition.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health has expressed concern about the dangers of abrasive blasting with silica sand since 1974. In 1992, NIOSH issued an Alert that described the very high silica dust levels produced during sandblasting. The Alert noted that workers in this occupation were at extremely high risk of developing silicosis and recommended the use of abrasive substitutes for sand.
OSHA had no immediate response to the petition.
ISEA is the trade association in the United States for companies that manufacture safety and personal protective equipment.